Tag Archives: Grace Kelly

True Grace

Nicole - hair 1There are lots of areas in which Grace of Monaco, the new biopic of Grace Kelly/Princess Grace, fails spectacularly and although it reeks of style – as befits a film about the rich and famous in the glamorous 1960s – it doesn’t really have much of Grace Kelly’s distinctive style about it. Nicole Kidman’s princely (don’t think there is a female equivalent) wardrobe is certainly a pleasure to look at, but it’s not a patch on the original, and – it seems – only one or two of the original ensembles are actually recreated.

What they did do rather a nice job on, however, was Princess Grace’s hair (see pic of Kidman as Kelly, above). In the 1960s, the style icon who had been known primarily for her pearls and accessories in during her movie star days, made her repertoire of formal – and increasingly outlandish – up-dos (created by the hair couturier Alexandre de Paris) her trademark. Here are three of the most memorable.  Grace - Hair 1

 

Grace - hair 2

 

Grace - hair 3

 * Grace of Monaco is in cinemas now (if you’re not careful!)

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Celebrating Grace

Grace Kelly. The name is synonymous with Hollywood’s glamorous heyday, timeless style, cool elegance and storybook romance. It may be exactly 30 years since her untimely, shocking death – on September 14, 1982 – but the fascination for the movie star who married a prince is still strong, and her influence is still keenly felt in the world of fashion and beyond.

During her 52 years – half of them as Grace Kelly, half as Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco – the bewitching blonde from Philadelphia established herself as a movie goddess, a style icon and a fairytale princess. In other words – a total one-off.

Throughout her pre-princess career, however, all Grace Kelly wanted was to be an actress – and a serious, respected one at that. And although she only made 11 films (squeezed into three and a half years), they include four classics and one Oscar-winning performance.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, she was the daughter of a wealthy businessman – and two-time Olympic gold medal winner – who had made his money in the construction trade and was able to provide his children with a very privileged upbringing. The family had a 17-room mansion in Philadelphia and a holiday home in New Jersey. Servants waited on them, a chauffeur drove them, and the children attended the best schools.

While Grace Kelly’s three siblings took after their sporty dad, she was – said her younger sister, Lizanne – “a shy, retiring girl” prone to respiratory problems who avoided the rough and tumble of physical games and preferred reading and imaginative play. Her father, whose approval Kelly seems to have sought throughout her young life, didn’t know what to make of her – or how to handle her. Indeed, in just about every soundbite he ever gave when she was famous, he said that it had been her elder sister that he had expected to become a star.

Mousey Grace took her family by surprise when she announced, at the age of 17, that she was leaving for New York to study at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Not only was she leaving home, but she was determined to support herself – which she did by working as a model, and an extremely busy one at that. Her natural shyness with new people was often misinterpreted as aloofness, but it’s impossible to find a quote from anyone who knew her which does not mention her warmth and lack of affectation, even as she became a major star and then a royal.

Her first professional roles were on the stage but it was as an in-demand member of the emerging stock company of actors working on live television dramas made in New York that she first attracted attention in the business, not least for her dedication to her work and her discipline. She made her movie debut in the noir-ish drama Fourteen Hours (1951) but it was the brooding western High Noon (1952) in which she had her first sizeable role – as Gary Cooper’s young Quaker bride.

Impressed by the way even Cooper’s eyes shone with expressiveness when she watched the film afterwards, and deeply dissatisfied with her own performance and “flat eyes”, Kelly headed back to New York to study more so that she could do better. But the general consensus was that although she wasn’t great, it hadn’t been a disaster.

Producer Stanley Kramer later pointed out that despite being miscast and despite having to play opposite an established star with huge presence and charisma, “Kelly wasn’t swallowed up, because that ladylike quality she had came through.”

It certainly came through enough to persuade MGM to offer her a contract, one which she was reluctant to accept because she wanted to be able to continue acting on the New York stage. However, the promise of a location shoot in Africa with screen legend Clark Gable persuaded her to sign on the dotted line (in the airport en route to the Congo)- and her resulting performance, as a prim Englishwoman, earned her a surprise Oscar nomination and launched her on her meteoric rise.

But she really hit her stride – and began her run of classic performances – when she was chosen by Alfred Hitchcock to play the two-timing wife of murderous Ray Milland in his London-set thriller Dial “M” For Murder in 1953. Hitchcock saw in Kelly something that her own studio did not: he was attracted to her “sexual elegance” and he gave her the chance to make great use of it in Dial M, Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955).

In an era of voluptuous pin-up girls, Kelly’s refined, ladylike sex appeal stood out alongside her intelligence, and although she was often described as “ice cool” or in other glacial terms, what Hitchcock capitalised upon was the warmth and passion that simmered below the surface. Kelly was, after all, rumoured to have had tempestuous love affairs with some of her leading men (notably William Holden).This passionate, sexy side was hinted at more with each of his films, finally exploding – with fireworks – in To Catch a Thief. Indeed, the English director once said: “Grace Kelly’s apparent frigidity was like a mountain covered with snow, but that mountain was a volcano.”

Not only did Hitchcock fall in love with Kelly professionally and personally – in the same way as he had done with Ingrid Bergman, who, by coincidence was Kelly’s favourite actress – but he had tremendous respect for her and accorded her more freedom than most of his stars. She formed a terrific relationship with the esteemed costume designer Edith Head, in whom Hitch had the utmost confidence, and they collaborated on the wardrobes for the Hitchcock movies; Hitchcock being a director who took a keen interest in the finest details of his films.

By the time Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco, during the Cannes Film Festival of 1955, the 25-year-old actress was already well on her way to becoming the style icon that she is today. From the get-go, her demure appearance – characterised by a penchant for pearls and a habit of wearing white gloves – had singled her out and sparked trends. When she won her Oscar, for the now less-well remembered drama The Country Girl – in which she courageously allowed herself to be seen looking frumpy and bespectacled – she dazzled the Academy audience in a mint-green satin gown which she had designed with Head. And, once her royal engagement was announced, in January 1956, there was almost daily speculation in the press about the contents of her trousseau – and of course the wedding dress itself.

The marriage of the Hollywood princess and the European prince in the summer of 1956 may have seemed like the ultimate happy-ever-after, but Kelly was a real woman who, by all accounts, felt real frustration at not being able to continue as an actress – though she did tell friends that playing a princess was to be her greatest role.

She and Rainier had four children and it was a miscarriage shortly after she had agreed to return to Hollywood to star in Hitchcock’s Marnie, in 1962, that put paid to a resumption of her career. Later – just six years before her sudden death – a new chapter of performing began when she came to the Edinburgh Festival to read poetry. This seemed to give her a new lease of life, alongside the charitable and cultural work she carried out in Monaco.

She died after suffering a stroke that caused her to lose control of her car on a journey from the family home in France to Monaco. Princess Stephanie, her daughter, was a passenger in the vehicle but survived the accident.

Her death robbed her adopted country of a much-loved princess, but she was already a movie and style icon, one whose influence remains as strong as ever …

* First published in The Scotsman, Thursday September 13, 2012

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Style on Film: To Catch a Thief

This is our first glimpse of Grace Kelly in one of her most stylish – and summery – films, To Catch a Thief, the 1955 romantic suspense movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Sunning herself at the Cannes Beach Club, she pauses mid suncream application as she clocks our hero, ex cat burglar and Resistance fighter John Robie (Cary Grant), strolling by.   It’s quite a while (20 minutes) before this first, fleeting, appearance by Kelly – and there’s another ten minutes before she is next onscreen –  but there’s still plenty of style to ogle, in the debonair form of Cary Grant.

When Francie (Grace Kelly) and Robie are finally introduced over dinner, she is a goddess-like vision in this elegant, flowing – and very now – strappy blue chiffon gown, created by the film’s costume designer, the inimitable Edith Head. Despite being the daughter of an oil tycooness who talks about “cuddling up to her jewellery” in bed, Francie, tellingly, is initially seen sans bijoux. There’s not so much as a pearl earring on her .. Francie is next seen just for a few seconds in a yellowy day dress before she slips into her bathing gear – this stunning ensemble which causes heads to turn as she strolls through the hotel lobby en route to her swimming date with the one-time cat burglar she’s sinking her claws into…Edith Head may well have been briefed by Alfred Hitchcock to dress his heroine in cool colours in order to underline the idea of her as an ice princess (and, presumably, play to Grace Kelly’s image as “the fair Miss Frigidaire”), but Francie is not exactly backwards at coming forwards – and on to the object of her desire. Dressed in a demure, dusty pink day dress (which, personally, I can’t stand), Francie whisks John off on a racy car trip. Driving at speed with a smug, knowing, in-control, look, she calls the shots about where they’re going and where they’ll have the picnic during which she famously asks: “Do you want a leg or a breast?” ..Having sussed that the object of her desire is also the object of the police’s, Francie tells John to come to her suite for cocktails and a bird’s eye view of the firework display at 8pm sharp. “I haven’t got a decent watch,” says John. “Steal one,” she replies. For the rendez-vous, she wears a simple, strapless white chiffon number chosen to showcase her mother’s (fake) diamond necklace.Francie has to work at it but she does manage to seduce John into some romantic action. (Her attempts at seducing him into some cat burglary aren’t quite as successful.) When they meet a few days later, and a contrite Francie confesses that she has fallen in love with him, she is dressed simply in a cream coat with a black top or dress underneath.The climax of the film is a lavish masquerade ball, with all the guests decked out in the style of the 16th Century. This proved to be the most expensive scene costume-wise that Edith Head had ever designed, and it’s an absolute riot of Crayola-coloured, crinolined dresses. Francie’s golden gown – the only strapless one in sight – stands out. To end, here’s a couple of shots that aren’t from the film. The first is a publicity shot of that extraordinarily simple yet stunning, icey blue Grecian gown: And the second is a favourite shot of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant off-duty. She’s wearing her own clothes (or at least clothes that weren’t seen in the film), and doing for espadrilles what Audrey Hepburn did for ballet pumps .. 

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Style on Film: Rear Window

Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rear Window (1954) is not only a masterwork of suspense; it’s also something of a fashion show with Grace Kelly/Lisa Freemont trotting out one gorgeous summer ensemble after another for both our and James Stewart’s delectation. After all, as James Stewart’s character points out: this is the Lisa Freemont “who never wears the same dress twice”.The costumes in this ravishing-looking film were designed by that doyenne of movie designers, Edith Head, and they had to highlight the differences between Lisa Freemont, socialite and model, and her relationship-shy guy, photo-journalist LB Jefferies. We know Lisa is a class act from the first moment we glimpse her in smouldering close-up, leaning in for a kiss – the simple, elegant single strand of pearls speaks volumes. If the pearl necklace and tasteful make-up didn’t immediately connote class and wealth, then Lisa’s description of her beautiful dress being “straight off the Paris plane” gets the message across. With its deep “V” neckline at the front and back,  and full, frothy skirt, it strikes the perfect Grace Kelly balance between sexy and chic, and was undoubtedly one of the most influential movie dresses of the 1950s. As you can see here, she wore it with a thin black patent belt, strappy black heels and a white cape and gloves.

According to Jay Jorgensen’s superb book, Edith Head – The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer (Running Press), Hitchcock’s brief to Edith Head was that Grace “was to look like a piece of Dresden china, nearly untouchable”. And yet, for most of the movie, it’s Lisa who is trying to seduce the incapacitated (he has broken his leg) Jeff … For her second seduction scene – where she’s thwarted by her man’s fascination with his neighbours and the possibility that one of them has bumped off his wife – Lisa is a vision of sophisticated sensuality in a black chiffon dress and the ubiquitous pearls, this time a triple strand necklace.

On the third evening of Jeff’s “last week” in his plaster cast, Lisa turns up looking suitably business-like in a sleek, mint-green skirt suit – after all, she is about to go into action as a detective, having been informed, by Jeff, that he saw their murder suspect going through a handbag stuffed with trinkets . As she unpins her veil and peels off her gloves, she explains to Jeff why this makes it all the more likely that he has done away with his wife: “Women don’t keep their jewellery in a purse getting all scratched and tangled up. And they don’t leave it behind either..”

For this scene, the single strand of pearls is back, along with plain, pearl disc earrings – but the whole effect is enhanced by Lisa’s beautiful satin halterneck top and, especially, the fabulous, clunkingly great, multi-strand pearl bracelet on her wrist. Not only does it add a bit of pearly pizazz to the elegant ensemble but it adds weight to Lisa’s case for the prosecution.. “Why, a woman going anywhere but the hospital would always take make-up, perfume and jewellery. .. It’s basic equipment. And you don’t leave it behind in your husband’s drawer.”Next, Lisa gives Jeff a masterclass in what else a woman would pack if she was going away for the night … an exquisite negligee. The story goes that when Hitchcock saw Kelly in this nightgown, he asked Edith Head to put in “falsies” to beef up her cleavage. But an indignant Kelly instead stiffened her back and stuck her chest out, and she and Head managed to convince the director that his instruction had been followed. The weakest link, in my view, in Grace Kelly’s wardrobe for Rear Window is the day dress she wears when Lisa goes snooping in the suspect’s apartment. It has always reminded me of curtains -albeit expensive ones.. See what I mean?I think the other issue I have with this frumpy frock is that I could equally imagine Stella (the wonderful Thelma Ritter), Jeff’s middle-aged, world-weary nurse, wearing it. I much prefer Lisa’s final look of the film – which is inspired by her man’s wardrobe, and which we see in a slow tracking shot, from the  Gene Kelly-style loafers up to the watermelon pink men’s shirt (which Head nipped in with a scarf ring at Kelly’s waist). 

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My Week in Beauty

Apologies for the oversized pictures – yet another problem with WordPress….

It’s not the easiest time of year to keep an up-to-date diary – what with all the bugs going round (I felt lousy for about ten days) and then the frenzy of social activities and shopping once December kicks in. Thankfully, I was recovered in time for the first of them: another fabulous party hosted by ROX, the Glasgow-based jewellers.

This being the Christmas party, it seemed appropriate to pull out all the stops, and give the Guerlain Les Ombres de Nuit 4 Colour Palette (£37) – a beautiful eyeshadow quartet from the French company’s exquisite Vol de Nuit Christmas collection – an outing. Actually, as is invariably the case with palettes, I only used the two lighter shades – a brownish silver and a greeny acqua – as recent photos of me with heavy eye make-up have made me look less than my best..  So, I’m using Grace Kelly as my beauty inspiration (this week!)..

My go-to lipstick for evenings at the moment served me well at the ROX party – surviving several cocktails and copious canapes: the deep reddy-pink Belle de Nuit shade of the new Dior Rouge Dior Les Rouges Or lipsticks (£22.50).

Having been unwell for a while and Saturday being my first night out in ages, I was out of practice and totally forgot to paint my nails at the front door before dashing into my taxi. I put that right on Tuesday when I headed off to the annual Clinique Christmas dinner wearing one of the new nail varnishes from Chanel – for spring 2012… Chanel Le Vernis in April (£17.50; 020-7493 3836) is the stand-out shade for me of the trio being launched at the end of January (it’s coming round sooner than you’d think). A dark browny pink (as opposed to May and June, which are pastel shades), it has vamp appeal – and was the perfect substitute for the bottle of Tom Ford nail polish which I had hoped would turn up in time.

I’ve been experimenting a little with my skincare too… I’ve not yet tried out any of the face products by the Scottish all-natural beauty company Pure Lochside, but I’m dying to try one of their facials, having recently experienced a hand and arm treatment in Whole Foods – and been introduced to their oils and balms, many of which use Scottish ingredients including the surprisingly soothing thistle.

The oil which I have been using religiously at night is Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil (£29; www.clarins.co.uk, from January). Although it’s being relaunched in a new, smaller bottle with a pipette for easy application, it has actually not changed in its formulation since it first went on the market. In 1954! I’ve been using two drops of this oil on my shine-prone skin every evening, and while I won’t say that I’ve noticed a let-up in the shininess yet (it has only been a week), I am finding it a pleasure to use and I’m noticing that my skin feels smoother as a result. So far, so positive… Let’s see what happens two weeks into the party/cold weather season – and as my 40th birthday looms ever larger.

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My Week in Beauty

SATURDAY

I spent last week with my jazz critic’s hat on (though it was a bit warm for a beret..), as I was covering the Edinburgh Jazz Festival for Scotland’s two quality broadsheets.

However, the week got off to a glamorous start when I attended my friend Merle’s royal-themed 40th birthday party. A couple of months ago she suggested that I come as Grace Kelly and the more I thought about it, the better an idea it seemed – especially when I remembered that I have a floral-patterned, full-skirted, calf-length  Zara dress which always reminds me of the frock Grace was wearing when she was introduced to Prince Rainier. The bonus was that I could wear this to my gigs (the second of which, appropriately, was a tribute to Louis Armstrong, Grace’s co-star in High Society) and not look ridiculous. I just stuck on fancy headband as I was leaving the concert, and, voila, my Kelly look was complete.

Of course, channelling Grace Kelly in the 1950s was easy – as it’s completely inkeeping with one of my favourite looks: a natural-looking eye make-up and coral-red lips. Luckily, my favourite coral of this summer,  Estee Lauder Pure Color Longlasting Lipstick in Coral Sun  (£18; www.esteelauder.co.uk), hadn’t yet melted on Saturday. By Thursday, it had come a cropper in the Edinburgh heatwave, and it’s now un-usable. Here’s a pic of me in character; my friend, the singer and concert promoter Todd Gordon, plays the part of Frank Sinatra rather well!

TUESDAY

Beige is boring, pink is too/ Only navy nails will do … (apologies to Kay Thompson’s Think Pink song from Funny Face).

I fell in love on Tuesday, in Edinburgh …. with midnight blue nail varnish, two in particular: Dior Vernis in Tuxedo (£17.50, from August 16) and an old one that I discovered I’d never tried – Chanel Le Vernis in Blue Satin (£17.50;  for stockists call 020-7493 3836). They both look fantastic with my colouring (much better than the brownish metallic shades which are also going to be big for autumn) – and, I think, a lot more chic than black or grey. I am definitely a convert.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering who the fabulous-looking woman is in the photo – that’s an American singer by the name of Clairdee, with whom I bonded over beauty tips and style secrets (when we were supposed to be discussing jazz!). She’s got THE most amazing skin, so watch out for her recommendations and advice on this blog over the next few weeks.

WEDNESDAY

Oooh, it’s not too late – I hope – to get your mitts on the exquisite eyeshadow quartet which Chanel brought out about six weeks ago, as part of its limited edition Byzance de Chanel collection which is exclusive to its make-up studios in Frasers, Glasgow; Fenwicks, Newcastle and Selfridges, London.

Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow in Topkapi (£37) is a thing of beauty; very easy to wear and to adapt to either a low-key look or full-on glamour. Though it does seem a shame to muss up the quilted boules of colour..

I got hooked on the top two shades last week for daily wear – and plan to wear them instead of some of the (frankly, rather disappointing) autumn shades I’ve been sent …

THURSDAY

As if by magic, the perfect companion to the Topkapi quartet was also in my make-up bag for the jazz festival: the limited edition Estee Lauder Pure Color Liquid Eyeliner (£19), from its new Modern Mercury collection, is a wonder: a liquid eyeliner which is as soft as a child’s crayon, and glides across the eyelid without dragging. In fact, you barely feel it making its mark.

I’ve been using the Black Quartz shade (can’t wait to try Graphic) which has a subtle sparkle through it and provides a considerably less harsh line than the average pure black liner. Of course, you can build it up for a dramatic look, or play it down for a softer one. The only drawback is it feels a little sticky once applied – on me, anyway.

And, speaking of makeup bags: I finally broke my bad habit of finding myself with my business cards because I’ve changed handbag. My new tip? I’m keeping my business cards in my make-up bag. After all, I never leave home without it!

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The Wisdom of Pearls

Pearls are big news this season in the beauty world, with Chanel and Guerlain both paying tribute to that most flattering of jewels in their spring make-up collections.  How better to complement a pearl-inspired make-up than with the real thing? Here, then, is a selection of stylish ladies who knew how to work their strings of pearls. Josephine Baker (sometimes nicknamed the Black Pearl),  knew how to get mileage out of her beads – both offstage (above) and on (below). Given that she made her name on the Paris stage, there’s a good chance that some of these pearls came from the boutique owned by one Mademoiselle Chanel ..

Silent movie icon Louise Brooks got in on the pearl trend when she played Lulu in Pandora’s Box in 1928.

By the 1940s, multi-strand necklaces which sat at the collarbone had become the “in” way to wear pearls, and, as screen siren Hedy Lamarr demonstrates here, it was particularly effective with a black chiffon. Anything else would have been too heavy-looking..

In the 1950s, a single strand worn high at the neck was a favourite way of wearing pearls, especially if you wanted to achieve a demure, ladylike look – which is clearly what a certain Miss Monroe was going for in this next photo.

And Elizabeth Taylor (almost) managed to deflect attention away from her low-cut dress with her ladylike single strand of pearls..

Of course, the reason for pearls becoming so strongly associated with a ladylike look was the fact that they were – along with white gloves – a key component of the signature style of Grace Kelly, the Hollywood star who became a real-life princess. Here she is in one of her beautiful Edith Head gowns from Rear Window (1954), a film in which her character’s chic wardrobe was designed to reflect the star’s own.

Jacqueline Kennedy was another American aristocrat who was known for her penchant for pearls – simple jewellery to complement the unfussy lines of her much-admired clothes.

Just when pearls were at risk of becoming too conservative a style choice, along came Sophia Loren – whose bib-like multi-strand was clearly a favourite, as she was often photographed wearing it.. If anyone could inject some va-va-voom into the art of wearing pearls, she could..

These days, anything goes – pearl-wise. Heaping them on to create a mess of pearls has become a statement-making way of of wearing them. Sarah Jessica Parker worked this look in Sex and the City but I don’t think it’s been done better in recent times than by the singer Rihanna whose pearls were the talking point of the Inglorious Basterds premiere in 2009.


But the pearly queen of them all – the woman who stayed true to the jewel throughout her life and who is still teaching us how to wear it- was Coco Chanel (pictured below with Serge Lifar in 1937) who was layering real and faux pearls of different sizes from early in her career. Vive les perles!

(c) Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet


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